Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Google X Pulled, Archived & Mirrored

Posted in Google by Elliott Back on March 16th, 2005.

Since Google just pulled their new Google X product and the forums are ablaze, I’m posting a screenshot at full resolution, as well as the archived mirror of the code and a live frontpage demo:

Google X (AJAX) Homepage

A zip archive of the Google X homepage can be found here (~90kb). Here is the announcement from their blog, in case it goes down too:

Today is an amazing day: A small idea – a fun late-night coding jaunt to help me learn Javascript & DHTML – has just launched on Google Labs. I never expected it to make it as far as it has when I wrote it a month ago, especially since my “real” job is working on Keyhole, where I’m having the time of my life taking our cool 3D mapping application and putting the power of Google behind it. It’s fulfilling to have the opportunity to reach the audience we always dreamed of when we started Keyhole five years ago, and that by itself is absolute coolness.

And now there’s Google X, which came about because I wanted a quick fun way to access all of Google’s services. I gave it to a few friends in the company, who gave it to their friends, some posted it on their blogs, others sent it around on mailing lists, and it eventually made its way to Marissa Mayer, who liked it enough to say, when do you want to put it up on Labs? So after some spit and polish from some enthusiastic Googlers and the keen eye of the UI team, Google X is here. I hope all of you enjoy it – especially Mac users, who I’m sure will appreciate its lineage.

Chikai Ohazama
Software Engineer

Posted @ 4:40 PM / Permanent Link

Just to let people know, I’m sending a bunch of trackback to optimistic and excited Google X blogs posts, for notification and to point them to this archive.

Update #1:

The mainstream media have picked up the story:

Update #2:

Here’s a live version of Google X displayed like the day it was pulled. The effect is pretty cool–I am not sure why anyone would want to take it down.

Update #3:

The Google Media Hotline (+1.650.930.3555) didn’t answer the telephone, so I left them a message. You can find the Google media contacts posted on their website. They just got back to me: “Thank you for your interest in Google, but unfortunately, we’re not providing comment.”

Drobo Benchmark: How Fast is the Drobo?

Posted in Computers & Technology,Hardware,NAS by Elliott Back on August 24th, 2008.

If you do much with computers, you might have heard of the home backup solution Drobo, which offers a redundant storage solution with striping and mirroring without any of the pain of a RAID array. Their cute devices take in four drives, use the space of one for redundancy, and give you protection against a single drive failure.


I wondered how fast it actually is, so I ran HD Tune, which measures the read speed of the drive:


On average, you’ll get 16MB/s out of the drobo, which is equivalent to probably half the speed of any of the drives you put into your Drobo. Maximum PC has a review in which the tried a Drobo with 1-4 drives, and they got an even 15.5MB/s in each configuration.

Buy @ Amazon!

Update: I have several seagate drives in my Drobo, which come by default with a jumper limiting them to SATA I (150 mbs). After I removed the jumper so they could use the faster SATA II, benchmarks gave me an average read speed of 16.3 MB/s. Reports indicate that the write speed may be faster, but I haven’t confirmed this.

Update: On Windows 7, and using the latest in firmware, I get 19.3MB/s average rate, 24ms average access time. On my other Drobo, I get 20.1 MB/s and 28ms access time. I can’t say whether it’s windows or the latest firmware, but it’s nice things are getting faster!

Cuil Sucks At Search (Go Google!)

Posted in Google,Search by Elliott Back on July 29th, 2008.

I love the idea behind Cuil, the latest search engine in a long list of failures (Mahalo, Ask, Powerset) to challenge Google. As Mashable explains, they are pulling out all the stops to hit Google from multiple directions across their core search competency:

Enter Cuil, a very serious competitor, packed with ex-Googlers (Tom Costello and Anna Patterson are the backbone of Cuil, and they’ve both worked at Google), and claiming to have the largest index of websites – 120 billion – in the world.

It doesn’t end there: Cuil pulls pretty much every trick in the book. Big claims about the biggest index, privacy concerns (IP addresses of users aren’t saved, making it impossible for a third party to request it from them), semi-semantic approach (Cuil’s engine recognizes the relations between certain words on a web site, which helps it rank pages better). Hell, they even pulled the energy-saving trick: the front page of Cuil is completely black, in contrast to Google’s eye-poking whiteness.

Check out the Slashdottie thread for more discussion. I’m not interested in going there; rather I’m more concerned with how relevant the results from Cuil are, compared to Google, in a stricter context of information retrieval. After all, a search engine is about finding information.

Let’s start with a query “how to rip a dvd” in Cuil and Google:

Cuil on “How To Rip a DVD”


4 of the 9 total results are spam from Ebooksbay. An additional 4 are for converting MP3s. The final result (which is quite spammy) is for ripping DVDs to a variety of formats. Score: 11%.

Google on “How To Rip a DVD”


Google gives you 7 DVD ripping guides, and three spams site of ripping software. Essentially, you have to give it a Score: 100%, since it’s pretty much the baseline in our test. Just based on what I’ve seen so far, this will be a comparison not of relative merits, but of how much less relevant the results from Cuil are compared to Google.

Cuil on “ConcurrentHashMap”


Wait, what is that in the rightmost result!!!? Yes, that winsome young woman is carefully inspecting a ConcurrentHashMap! Ahm, bad image / search results correlations aside, the search listings fail to list the authority Java documentation source (Sun’s website) and instead list 2 mirrors (java 5 and 6), 4 bug reports, 3 mailing list discussions, and 2 random libraries with a similarly named class. Score: 50%.

Google on “ConcurrentHashMap”


Google nicely gives us the Sun Java page as the first result, 2 snippets of code using this class, 6 guides to using concurrent hash maps, a benchmark, one of the same random libraries as Cuil (Oswego), and a different random library (backport-util). I’d give them Score: 80% at this task.

Anyway, I’m getting tired of writing this. Cuil just doesn’t deliver fast, consistent, high-quality search results. The relevance is quite low, in spite of the interface improvements and searching / clustering / recommendation features.

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